Concerned decision makers increasingly pose questions as to whether current management practices are able to cope with climate change and increased climate variability. This signifies a shift in the framing of climate change from asking what its potential impacts are to asking whether it induces policy failure and unacceptable change. In this paper, we explore the background, feasibility, and consequences of this new framing. We focus on the specific situation in which a social-political threshold of concern is likely to be exceeded as a result of climate change, requiring consideration of alternative strategies. Action is imperative when such a situation is conceivable, and at this point climate change becomes particularly relevant to decision makers. We call this situation an “adaptation turning point.” The assessment of adaptation turning points converts uncertainty surrounding the extent of a climate impact into a time range over which it is likely that specific thresholds will be exceeded. This can then be used to take adaptive action. Despite the difficulty in identifying adaptation turning points and the relative newness of the approach, experience so far suggests that the assessment generates a meaningful dialogue between stakeholders and scientists. Discussion revolves around the amount of change that is acceptable; how likely it is that unacceptable, or more favorable, conditions will be reached; and the adaptation pathways that need to be considered under these circumstances. Defining and renegotiating policy objectives under climate change are important topics in the governance of adaptation.
- Adaptation turning points
- Climate change